What is Phishing and How to Avoid it?

Gone are the days when fishing meant a rod, a reel and some bait. In today's technological world, we now have Phishing, and it's not a pleasant adventure. Phishing occurs when a computer program makes an attempt to acquire sensitive information from your computer by deceptive and misleading means.

Phishing has been around since the late 1980's, however the term "phishing" wasn't really put into use until the late 1990's. The term phishing of course, is a variant of the word fishing, because as a fisher throws out his line hoping to hook something on the other end, computer phishers throw out their line hoping to hook sensitive information from an individual's computer.

Phishing is used to collect information from peoples computer systems such as usernames and passwords, credit card information, banking details and other information that you would rather keep to yourself. The phishers can then take this information and use it themselves, causing you a great deal of trouble.

While phishing can be a little difficult to avoid, there are steps that you can take to prevent having it happen to you. All that is needed is a little bit of common sense, and you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a phishing scam.

5 steps you can take to protect your information and prevent having it "hooked" by a Phisher:
  1. Make sure that your personal information is only communicated through a secure website (such websites will usually have "https" in the address bar). Websites will have statements or icons to let you know their site is secure. This is absolutely essential when dealing with a banking website, or a site where you are required to give your credit card information.

  2. If you are unsure of the authenticity of a website that is in an email you receive, do not click on the embedded link. (And never submit personal information after clicking a link in an email, even if it's from a person you know.) Instead type the website link into a search engine or directly into your browser's address bar. In this way you can avoid any copy-cat websites the phishers may have set up to look like your bank's website.

  3. Thoroughly investigate any emails that ask for financial information. If you get an email asking for a quick response with your bank information, log-in information or usernames and passwords, do NOT respond. For the most part, a legitimate business will never ask for this information in the form of an email, and even though it may seem to come from a well known business, your email may actually have come from a phisher in a far-off country.

  4. Keep track of your online accounts - check them regularly to make sure you are fully aware of what information is there. If you use a credit card online, pay attention to card statements to make sure there are no unauthorized transactions or transactions that you have not made.

  5. Have proper antivirus software protection. Antivirus and AntiSpyware software can block suspect websites, as well as scan your emails for Viruses and Phishing attempts they may contain.
Article last updated May 27, 2011.

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